Government expected to file affidavit on black money Monday

Monday, 27 April 2009, 02:59 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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New Delhi: With its 48-hour deadline expiring on Friday, the union government is now expected to inform the Supreme Court Monday on its efforts towards retrieving over 70 trillion ($1.4 trillion) in black money believed to be stashed away in foreign banks by Indians.

The government had made the commitment Wednesday before a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, while responding to a lawsuit accusing it of sitting idle on the question of retrieving the illicit wealth.

Asserting that the government is not sitting idle on the matter, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam had offered to file an affidavit in the court within "48 hours", detailing the actions taken by it so far.

The government's self-set deadline of 48 hours began a little after 2 p.m. Wednesday and expired Friday.

Though the apex court had not issued any direction to the government to file the affidavit within "48 hours", the court, accepting the government's offer in good faith refrained from issuing any formal notice on the matter.

Without issuing any notice, the court adjourned the matter for next hearing to May 4.

The government is expected to file the affidavit on Monday, sources said.

Subramaniam had asserted Wednesday that the government had written to the German government seeking details of the possible Indian citizens having secret accounts in foreign banks in that country within 24 hours. The move followed a report by a leading business daily in February 2008 that a former employee of the LGP bank in Liechtenstein had sold data on about 1,400 people who had money there to tax authorities across the world.

The German government, which too bought the data, had offered to provide it to any country that sought the information, the news report had said.

Subramaniam had said the New Delhi-based financial daily had carried the report on Feb 27, 2008, and the government had written to Germany seeking details of the possible Indian tax evaders on Feb 28, within 24 hours of the report being published.

He said the government had also received the German government's response, which he said could not be disclosed in the open court.

The union law ministry sources, however, attributed the government's failure in filing the affidavit within the 48 hours, to its "displeasure at the highest level" with Subramaniam's "over-enthusiasm" in self-imposing a deadline on filing the affidavit.

The sources said the government at its highest level is of the view that the law officer should not have made the commitment on his own, and that too such an early deadline.

The government is of the view that it would have preferred filing an affidavit only after issuance of notice on the lawsuit, said sources.

The officials said the government was however largely appreciative of Subramaniam's handling of the issue in the apex court, especially his arguments on the "mystifying timing" of filing the lawsuit and the political motive behind it.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday jointly by former law minister Ram Jethmalani, former Lok Sabha general secretary Subhash C. Kashyap and former Punjab Police chief K.P.S. Gill.

The lawsuit is based on a research article written by noted economist and Bangalore's Indian Institute of Management professor E. Vaidyanathan for the institute's in-house journal Eternal India.

Vaidyanathan has estimated that "between 2002 to 2006, $1.4 billion, roughly equivalent to 7,000 crore (70 billion), have been siphoned off from this country and stashed away in foreign banks".

Return of the illegal wealth of Indians in foreign banks, particulary Swiss banks, has become a major poll planks of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Source: IANS
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